Putin and Bush’s Favorite PR firm

The public-relations firm that placed Putin’s op-ed ran afoul of propaganda laws under Bush.

From left to right, President of Chile Ricardo Lagos, U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, walk in together wearing traditional Chilean ponchos as they arrive for the APEC Leader's Official Photograph at La Moneda Sunday, Nov. 21, 2004 in Santiago, Chile.
National Journal
Alex Seitz Wald
See more stories about...
Alex Seitz-Wald
Sept. 13, 2013, 4 a.m.

With his op-ed in The New York Times Thursday morn­ing, Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin has done what no Amer­ic­an can—unite Con­gress. Gran­ted, it’s united by an in­tense, “vomit“-in­du­cing re­volu­tion at the spec­tacle of be­ing lec­tured to by a hos­tile strong­man in the na­tion’s pa­per of re­cord, but at least Putin can claim an un­likely bed­fel­low in Pres­id­ent George W. Bush.

Ketch­um, the PR firm Putin used to place his op-ed in The Times, was the same com­pany that the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion used to pro­duce what the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­ab­il­ity Of­fice later called il­leg­al “cov­ert pro­pa­ganda.”

Un­der con­tract from the De­part­ment of Edu­ca­tion, Ketch­um paid con­ser­vat­ive pun­dit Arm­strong Wil­li­ams $241,000 in tax­pay­er money to tout No Child Left Be­hind in ap­pear­ances on CNN and CN­BC, and to in­ter­view Edu­ca­tion Sec­ret­ary Rod Paige for TV and ra­dio ads.

Later, The Wash­ing­ton Post re­vealed that con­ser­vat­ive colum­nist Mag­gie Galla­gh­er took at least $20,000 from the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices via Ketch­um. There were also sev­er­al thou­sand dol­lars in pay­ments to Mi­chael Mc­Manus, who wrote a syn­dic­ated “Eth­ics & Re­li­gion” column.

But it was the fake news broad­casts that Ketch­um pro­duced on be­half of HHS that really ran afoul of the law, ac­cord­ing to two opin­ions re­leased by law­yers at the GAO. The health de­part­ment’s “video news re­leases,” which ran on loc­al TV news sta­tions, vi­ol­ated a pro­hib­i­tion on gov­ern­ment pro­pa­ganda as well as leg­al ap­pro­pri­ations lim­its. “HHS’s mis­use of ap­pro­pri­ated funds in vi­ol­a­tion of the pub­li­city or pro­pa­ganda pro­hib­i­tion also con­sti­tutes a vi­ol­a­tion of the An­ti­de­fi­ciency Act,” GAO gen­er­al coun­sel An­thony Gam­boa wrote in 2004.

Since then, Ketch­um has been busy work­ing for the Rus­si­an gov­ern­ment, se­cur­ing op-eds in CN­BC and The Huff­ing­ton Post, along with The Times, and mak­ing con­tact with ed­it­ors on the gov­ern­ment’s be­half. That is, when it’s not of­fend­ing food blog­gers.

But Bush and Putin are not alone. In 2010, Barack Obama’s HHS used stim­u­lus funds to hire Ketch­um to pro­mote the de­part­ment’s policy on elec­tron­ic med­ic­al re­cords. Obama is also the single largest re­cip­i­ent of dona­tions from Ketch­um em­ploy­ees.

Per­haps Obama and Putin can sort out Syr­ia over a drink at Camp Ketch­um.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4439) }}

What We're Following See More »
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
3 days ago

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
4 days ago

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
4 days ago

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
4 days ago
California: It’s Not Over Yet
4 days ago

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.